If you have a gummy smile, one that shows a large portion of your gums whenever you smile or laugh, you’re already too familiar with the difficulties that come with showing too much of your gums. It can make you self-conscious when you talk or laugh and cause you to hold back from overly expressing yourself. What you might not know is that there is a new procedure that can correct a gummy smile without having to go under the knife.

In the past, the only way to correct a gummy smile was with a gingivectomy, an operation to remove excess gum tissue. Now, according to Beverly Hills, CA, cosmetic dentist Laurence Rifkin, DDS, you can easily fix your gummy smile with a simple procedure that takes under an hour to perform. For a nonsurgical gummy smile correction, Dr. Rifkin uses a combination of Botox Cosmetic injections along with smile exercises for muscle stimulation.

“On this patient I used combination of veneers and Botox Cosmetic injections right under the nose in the levator labii superioris muscles (the muscles that help us sneer) to deactivate the muscle group that elevates the lip excessively and show the gum tissue above the teeth themselves,” explains Dr. Rifkin. “As part of this treatment, I also have my patients perform smile exercises in front of a mirror for muscle strengthening to improve smile symmetry. Performing these exercises can also help increase the lip elevation on just one side of the smile if it is lower or weaker than the other side. Over time the effect is natural and the muscle is strengthened just like any other muscle that has been exercised.”

The recovery is minimal (there may be a tiny bruise at the injection site) and Dr. Rifkin says results can last anywhere from three to six months. He recommends this temporary procedure to patients who are considering permanent surgery and want to preview the possible results. As far as freezing your smile or stunting your expression around the mouth, Dr. Rifkin says there’s nothing to fear. “The Botox Cosmetic does not immobilize the muscles you use to smile. Because the injections are placed in the ‘elevator’ muscles, it really allows you to smile bigger and brighter without fearing that you’re showing too much of your gums.”